A $9 million donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians galvanizes tribal gaming and law programs at UNLV

University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) has received a $9 million gift from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians that will position the university as the nation’s leading source for education and innovation related to tribal gaming operations and law.  

This gift—the largest out-of-state philanthropic gift that the California-based San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has bestowed on an educational or healthcare institution—will support course development and an endowed chair at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, according to press materials. It will also provide curricular, faculty and program support at the William S. Boyd School of Law. 

The historic agreement will, for the first time, infuse the unique elements of tribal gaming into the world’s leading hospitality and gaming program, and add a tribal gaming emphasis to the nation’s only master’s degree program in gaming law. 

“In the tribe’s history, tribal government gaming is the only tool that has worked to meet our economic development objectives,” said Lynn Valbuena, chairwoman for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. “Yet the full potential of tribal gaming cannot be achieved if we do not also place emphasis on developing Native People to manage our economic development, including gaming. Therefore, we are making this investment in the partnership with UNLV to educate and prepare our children, grandchildren and future generations to help chart our path to a sustainable future.”

A $6 million portion of the gift will establish the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair in Tribal Gaming at the UNLV College of Hospitality. It will also enhance the college’s curriculum by incorporating tribal gaming into existing gaming courses, creating new on-campus and online degree-track courses in tribal gaming, and developing a set of online certificate courses for community members and Native Americans across the nation who are interested in learning more about careers in tribal gaming operations. 

“As tribal gaming continues to expand throughout the nation, it is critical for our college to be able to educate both current and future professionals on the operational nuances of tribal gaming,” said Stowe Shoemaker, dean of the UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality. “This gift not only helps us develop greater expertise in tribal gaming operations, it allows us to make this unique educational opportunity accessible to everyone.”

The program, which will emphasize partnerships with other schools and tribes nationwide, will also host an annual, week-long executive education seminar for tribal gaming professionals. The college plans to have faculty in place this fall, with the full tribal gaming program rollout anticipated by Fall 2023.

At the UNLV Boyd School of Law, $3 million of the gift will support a professor-in-residence, a visiting professor, and a program administrator who will create opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue and research on governance, regulation and economic development issues. 

Funds will also be channeled into a scholarship for a Bachelor of Laws (LL.M.) student in gaming, with preference given to tribal citizens and indigenous student applicants. The Law School will also develop online courses on tribal governance and gaming regulation, expand its Tribal Law Practicum for students, and conduct an annual workshop or symposium on emerging topics and issues of interest to Native American gaming.

“The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is one of the leaders in tribal gaming in the country, and has made a sustained commitment to philanthropy and research,” said Daniel W. Hamilton, dean of the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law. “We are deeply grateful for their partnership, and look forward to building the nation’s leader in developing best practices for tribal gaming law, policy and governance. This is a wonderful fit for UNLV Boyd where we offer more gaming law classes than any other law school and the nation’s only master’s in gaming law and regulation. This extraordinary gift will enable UNLV Boyd to take on a leading role nationally in an area of the law that is rapidly evolving.”

UNLV is a doctoral-degree-granting institution of more than 30,000 students and 3,500 faculty and staff that is recognized among the top three percent of the nation’s research institutions. For more information, visit


FireKeepers Casino brings human trafficking awareness training to Michigan legislators and the gaming industry

Battle Creek, Mich.-based FireKeepers Casino Hotel, which is owned and operated by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP), is leading an initiative to raise human trafficking awareness both in Michigan and on a national level. 

Recently, FireKeepers Vice President of Security and Surveillance George Jenkot, along with FireKeepers Security Training and Special Events Manager Joe Donato, presented Michigan legislators with their training and methods on human trafficking awareness, according to a press release. The presentation was part of a full day of events designed bring attention to the horrors of human trafficking. 

Jenkot and his team have been leading the gaming industry in training to identify and raise awareness of human trafficking, by continually training their team members, sharing their training program at national conferences with executives of casinos and resorts of all sizes and destinations. The training highlights ways to identify potential human trafficking situations, victims and offenders, and offers best practices to escalate concerns. 

State Rep. Mary Whiteford, chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Service, was one of the hosts for the event. “I am thankful to have this opportunity to present real human trafficking stories to the Michigan legislature,” Whiteford said. “While Michigan has made significant advances in fighting human trafficking since 2011, there is still more work to be done. The exploitation of vulnerable children, women and men is unconscionable, and a crime that must be stopped.”

“Spreading awareness is the best weapon against trafficking, and arming those within our reach with the knowledge to identify and raise concerns is the key to preventing future victimization,” said Jamie Stuck, tribal council chairperson for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. “NHBP is proud to be part of the efforts to raise awareness to the important topic of human trafficking.”

Jenkot has been managing security and surveillance departments for over 26 years in both Native American and publicly-owned casinos. His areas of responsibility also include risk management, workers compensation, transportation and entertainment. Jenkot spent six years as an active board member and advocate for S.A.F.E. Place, a non-profit organization in Battle Creek dedicated to providing shelter and services to domestic violence victims, survivors and their families. He has also been instrumental working with the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, bringing awareness and training to the casino community. He maintains a board certification in security as a Certified Protection Professional with the American Society for Industrial Security.

Donato started his career in emergency services over 19 years ago and is currently training officer, fire inspector and assistant chief of Athens Township Fire Department. His responsibilities at FireKeepers include managing security personnel at all special events, and to provide training for all casino staff in the areas of human trafficking, active shooter, fire safety and emergency evacuation procedures. Donato is a member of the Crossroads Regional Chapter of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and the American Society for Industrial Security.

FireKeepers Casino Hotel features 2,900 slot machines, 70 table games, a live poker room, and bingo room. FireKeepers offers a AAA-rated Four Diamond resort-style hotel with 243 rooms, a functional multi-purpose event center, six distinctive dining destinations, and multiple lounges. Formore information, visit


Hard Rock and EduNetwork Partners develop an education program and contest to teach teens positive video gaming habits 

Seminole Tribe of Florida-owned Hard Rock International, in partnership with education experts EduNetwork Partners, has created The Game Plan Challenge to educate teens on healthy video gaming habits, and to challenge them to create a fun campaign that inspires their friends.

Today’s kids are digital natives—they have only known a world connected by cell phones, computers, game consoles and tablets.  Over 90 percent of kids in the U.S. today play some kind of video game on a regular basis, according to press materials. 

This kind of social gaming can be a healthy part of teenage life—helping kids feel connected to friends, providing a sense of achievement, stimulating strategic thinking and relieving stress and anxiety. Parents and teachers sometimes overlook these benefits, focusing on very real concerns, like the time and mental energy kids spend immersed in digital play. 

Working with EduNetwork Partners and the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Hard Rock International created The Game Plan Challenge to help teens, parents and educators navigate digital, social gaming. Fun activities and expert-informed content available at lead users to explore the positive aspects of gaming, to cultivate safe habits, while also learning about potential risks. 

Teens were challenged to apply what they learn by developing a creative campaign to motivate other teens to set a game plan that balances gaming with school, activities and home life. The creative submissions for the Game Plan Challenge included a video, social media or print campaign. 

“By helping high school-aged students understand all aspects of social gaming—the good parts and the risks—we want to teach the importance of planning and managing play,” said Dr. Jeffery Derevensky, director of McGill University’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors. 

The program also addresses behavioral risks common to both social gaming and gambling. The video games that kids play differ from legal forms of gambling, which are restricted to adults, so the Game Plan Challenge teaches other safeguards, helping teens understand the similarities and differences between their games and gambling.

“We want students to have fun with the Game Plan Challenge,” said Paul Pellizzari, vice president of global social responsibility for Hard Rock International. “And, we want them to speak to and inspire each other about the games they play and love, while understanding what happens when problems develop, and what to do about it.”

The Game Plan Challenge launched in October 2019 and was open to students 13-18 years of age who reside in the U.S.  Students were judged on: message conveyed, originality and creativity. The competition ended in January, and winners were scheduled to be announced in March. Prizes include guitar packages with over $2,000 in merchandise. For more information on the contest visit

With venues in 75 countries spanning 259 locations that include owned/licensed or managed hotels, casinos, rock shops and cafes, Hard Rock International (HRI) is one of the most globally recognized hospitality companies. For more information, visit


The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi partners with Indian tech for Pathways Scholarship Program

The Dowagiac, Mich.-based Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, owners and operators of Four Winds Casino resorts in Michigan and Indiana, has partnered with Indiana Tech to create the Pathways Scholarship Program. 

The program will provide eligible employees of the Pokagon government and eligible employees of its portfolio companies managed by its non-gaming investment entity, Mno-Bmadsen, with scholarship opportunities to pursue degree programs which will provide job skills training and open doors for career advancement, according to a press release.

“We are very excited to offer this opportunity to eligible employees who apply for enrollment and meet Indiana Tech’s admission standards,” said Sam Morseau, director of the Pokagon Band Department of Education. “Those that are accepted into a degree program will receive a scholarship equal to 20 percent of the annual standard tuition rate. Other benefits to scholarship recipients will include textbook rental and on-demand access to online tutoring at no charge, as well as support from Indiana Tech’s Career Center including access to job postings, internships, information sessions, career days and job fair opportunities.”

“This truly is an exceptional program that will have a profound positive effect on the lives and careers of our eligible employees that apply and are accepted into this program,” added Matthew Wesaw, tribal chairman of the Pokagon Band. “We applaud the Pokagon Band Department of Education, Mno-Bmadsen and the leadership at Indiana Tech for working together to make this program a reality.”

“Indiana Tech is pleased to partner with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi to benefit its employees with access to quality, affordable education,” said Steven Herendeen, vice president for enrollment management at Indiana Tech. “Our degree offerings are well-suited to helping them advance in their careers, and to continue serving their people with the highest levels of professionalism, innovation and effectiveness. Everyone at our university looks forward to helping them pursue their educational goals and reach their greatest potential.”

The mission of the Pokagon Band Department of Education is to provide opportunities to promote lifelong learning among all tribal citizens. The Education Department also provides educational services to other Native Americans in the 10-county service area who meet the eligibility of specific federal grants. More information on the Pokagon Band Department of Education can be found at

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi own and operate Four Winds Casino Resort New Buffalo, Four Winds Hartford, Four Winds Dowagiac and Four Winds South Bend. The Pokagon Band also operates a variety of businesses via Mno-Bmadsen, its non-gaming investment enterprise. For more information, visit